A new chief prosecutor was sworn in on Tuesday just hours after his predecessor called on a judge to indict Prime Minister Ariel Henry in the president’s murder and to ban him from leaving Haiti, a move that could further destabilize a country in turmoil following the assassination. and a recent major earthquake.
The request filed by Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude, who was sacked by Henry, came on the same day the prosecutor requested that the prime minister come to a meeting and explains why he spoke twice with a key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse just hours after the murder.
“There are enough compromising elements (…) to prosecute Henry and demand his indictment outright,” wrote Claude before being replaced by Frantz Louis Juste, a prosecutor who oversaw the case involving the death of more than a dozen children in an orphanage fire near Port-au-Prince last year.
A spokesperson for Henry could not be reached for comment.
It was not clear whether Claude’s dismissal would have an impact on the case, but an analyst noted that the investigation is in the hands of a judge.
It was not clear whether Claude had been officially removed from his post before applying to the judge. The Associated Press obtained a letter dated Monday in which Henry told Claude he was fired for indefinite “serious administrative misconduct” and that the decision was effective as soon as he received the document.
Claude did not respond to a request for comment on his dismissal or when he received the letter.
Claude said the phone calls in question were made at 4:03 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. on July 7, adding that the evidence shows that the suspect, Joseph Badio, was near Moses’ home at the time. Badio previously worked for Haiti’s justice ministry and the government’s anti-corruption unit until he was fired in May amid charges of violating unspecified ethical rules.
In the two-page document, Claude says the calls lasted a total of seven minutes and that Henry was at the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince at the time. The prosecutor also noted that a government official tweeted last month that Henry told him he had never spoken with Badio.
On Monday, Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent ordered Haiti’s national police chief to strengthen Claude’s security because Claude had received “significant and disturbing” threats in the past five days.
Brian Concannon, advisor to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said he did not expect much to change despite the appointment of a new prosecutor.
“A lot of it is theater,” he said.
Concannon noted that the murder case is in the hands of Judge Garry Orélien and that he can decide whether or not to continue an investigation into Henry even if the new prosecutor advises otherwise. He said the judge had three months to determine whether to take action.
Robert Fatton, a Haitian political expert at the University of Virginia, said there was clearly a power struggle in government between Henry and those who supported Moses.
“We have a very confusing situation, a power struggle right now, and we’ll see who wins it,” he said. “We don’t know where we are going, and we don’t know what the international community thinks about everything.”
In recent days, the Office of Citizen Protection, similar to Haiti’s ombudsman, announced that it was demanding that Henry step down and called on the international community to stop supporting him.
Henry did not specifically address the issue in public, although in a meeting with politicians and civil society leaders on Saturday he said he was determined to help stabilize Haiti.
“Rest assured that no distractions, no summons or invitations, no maneuvers, no threats, no rearguard combat, no aggression will distract me from my mission,” said Henry. “The real culprits, the intellectual authors and co-author and sponsor of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse will be found and brought to justice and punished for their crimes. “
Moïse had appointed Henry prime minister shortly before he was killed at his home in an attack which also seriously injured his wife, Martine Moïse.
More than 40 suspects have been arrested in this case, including 18 former Colombian soldiers. Authorities are still looking for additional suspects, including Badio and a former Haitian senator.
The investigation continues despite court clerks in hiding after receiving death threats if they do not change some names and statements in their reports.
In addition, a Haitian judge responsible for overseeing the investigation resigned last month for personal reasons. He left after the death of one of his assistants under unclear circumstances. A new judge has been appointed.